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Smith files as GOP nominee for 8th District, presses 'hunt and fish' constitutional amendment

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 11, 2013 - State Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, filed the paperwork Monday to became the official Republican nominee for the 8th Congressional District, after he was chosen Saturday by GOP leaders in the district.

Smith, 32, had beaten out 12 rivals during the balloting, which involved almost all of the 86 Republican committeepeople in the 20 counties in southeast Missouri that have some territory in the congressional district.

Their Democratic counterparts are to select that party’s nominee next Saturday. The nominees will face off in a June 4 special election, with the victor succeeding Jo Ann Emerson, a veteran Republican who stepped down last month to become head of the national Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, Smith said, Now more than ever, Missourians need effective representatives who will stand up against the out-of-control federal government — and it is humbling to know that I may be their voice in Washington.”

“Since December, I have put more than 10,000 miles on my car as I’ve campaigned throughout southern Missouri,” Smith continued. “It is with that same intensity that I will work over the next four months to take our conservative message to every corner of the 8th District.”

Smith, now speaker pro tem in the state House, is apparently seeking to bolster his conservative credentials. On Tuesday, Smith will present his proposed state constitutional amendment to guarantee “the traditional rights of Missourians to hunt, fish and farm.”

Smith plans to present his proposal to the (HJR 7) to the House Agriculture Policy Committee. If approved by the General Assembly, it would go onto a 2014 statewide ballot.

“We want to protect Missourians from the radical ideas that out-of-state groups have tried to advance within our borders to eliminate our traditional rights to hunt, fish and farm,” said Smith. “I’m hopeful we can move the amendment quickly through the process and onto the ballot so Missourians will have the ability to forever enshrine these fundamental rights in our state’s constitution.”

Smith has proposed such a constitutional amendment before in 2011. Some tie his interest, in part, to the divisive Proposition B vote in 2010 in which Missourians narrowly approved some restrictions on dog breeders (later rescinded in a deal cut between rural legislators and Gov. Jay Nixon.)  In 2011, pundits noted that Smith's mother had been a dog breeder.

Now, some conservatives see the proposal as a way to galvanize gun-rights advocates in the state as well. Having such a ballot measure on the 2014 statewide ballot also might be a way to attract more conservatives to the polls, which could help conservative Republican candidates all over the Missouri.

(UPDATE) Smith's proposal was approved unanimously Tuesday by a state House committee. He also explained at the meeting why he was pressing for passage.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Smith told committee members his legislation comes in response to the efforts of out-of-state special interest groups to erode the traditional rights of farmers.

“The agriculture industry here in our state, which is one of the most important parts of our heritage and our economic engine, has been under attack by radical groups that want to destroy the Missouri way of life,” said Smith. “Let’s give voters the opportunity to send a strong, clear message to these subversive special interests. They need to know we will not allow their unscrupulous methods to limit our freedoms or destroy the traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries.”

According to Smith, his proposed constitutional amendment "would, upon voter approval, affirm the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices. It specifies that no law that abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology and modern livestock production and ranching practices may be enacted."

“North Dakota passed a similar amendment last year to repel the efforts of these out-of-state radicals. We need to follow their lead by standing up to defend our farm families here in Missouri,” said Smith. “It’s something I know the people of Missouri will support with overwhelming numbers because it’s the right thing to do for our state.” (End update)

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.